Exploring Life Science: The Seed Experiment

We are wrapping up our STEM standards with Week 4: Life Sciences. Check out the experiment below to help your students better understand growth and life cycles!

Seed Jar Experiment


Grades: K – 5th  


  • Glass container (large ball jar)
  • Paper towels
  • Water 
  • 3 types of seeds (suggested:  sunflowers, beans, and peas) 
  • Magnifying glass

Overview: We have all watched plants grow from the ground up.  But what takes place beneath the ground?  In this experiment, students will observe and compare how different types of seeds grow.  This experiment requires approximately 2 weeks to complete.   

Procedure: Fold the paper towels and place them into the jar.  Place some water in the jar (do not flood it).  Place the seeds around the jar (2 or 3 of each type), snuggled among the towels, but on the outside where they are visible.  Create a simple sheet for students to record their observations.

Ask students what they might observe (a root to pop out the side or bottom, root hairs, shoots to come up).  

Ask students what tools they can use to make their observations (vision, magnifying glass, ruler).   

Note: Sunflowers will be the fastest to pop a root, but won’t grow out of the jar.  Beans took the longest to pop a root and grew out of the jar.  Peas grew quickly once the root popped and grew the tallest.

Adapt: This experiment can be turned into a research project for middle school students.  Create one set of controls (a different jar for each of the three types of seeds).  Students can determine their own variables to test.  They can choose from abiotic and biotic factors, such as light, amount of water, quantity of paper towels, and pollution (could be simulated by placing some ammonia or household cleaner in with the water).  Students can create a hypothesis, collect and analyze data, and present the results to their peers.  This is a great opportunity to use scientific inquiry to explore seed germination and plant growth.    

Follow-up: Ask students to hypothesize why they observed different things at different rates for each seed type.